From Hospitalization to Healing

What being sectioned under the mental health act taught me about self-acceptance.

Written by Sophie Farr

From Hospitalization to Healing

01 Sophie lives with bipolar disorder. In this article, she describes experiencing her first manic episode, which led to being hospitalized.

02 Rushing to return to normalcy, she decided to stop taking her medication and go back to a busy schedule, which caused a second episode.

03 While it took some time, she has come to accept her bipolar diagnosis, and shares how community care and self acceptance have helped her heal.

My first episode happened right at the beginning of 2022. It was one of rapid onset, and I had no prior history of mental illness. Just a few weeks before, I had been planning out my New Year goals and travel plans. What happened next, nobody could have predicted. 

I stopped sleeping for a week, during which I began to experience hallucinations, tremors and delusional thinking. My perception of the world around me became distorted. I started sending incoherent Whatsapp messages that made no sense to anyone but me. I ended my four relationship.

My family was forced to call an ambulance and admit me. I was sectioned in a hospital for two months — highly medicated, acting and speaking in a way that was out of character, and thinking beyond the realms of reality. On the inside, it felt like what can only be described as a bad trip, equal parts euphoric and frightening.

My perception of the world around me became distorted.

With time and medication, I gradually began to regain my sense of self and was able to leave the hospital. However, rather than continuing to rest and recover from what was a prolonged episode, I went straight back into my fast-paced job, traveling, and having a packed social schedule. I wanted to regain some sense of normalcy, and anyone who has been inside a psychiatric ward is likely to understand my desire at the time to distance myself from it. 

I continued to take antipsychotic medication and a mood stabiliser for about six months. But as soon as I started to feel “better”, I stopped taking both. My well being steadily declined, and I relapsed into a second episode, just a year after the first one. 

The second time was arguably worse, and it was clear that had I continued taking my medication as prescribed, I could have avoided relapsing. So this time, I took the doctors more seriously and accepted that I needed help. 

I was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, given the symptoms of bipolar mania combined with depressive episodes. The last thing I wanted was to be sectioned in hospital again, so I gladly welcomed all forms of help from family, friends, and NHS peer and care support workers. I didn’t return to work, and instead allowed my mind and body time to slow down, rest, and recover. 

There are two things that really helped me begin to heal following my diagnosis: the importance of leaning into community care, and the idea of self-acceptance.

Community care can mean many things, but to me, it means embracing the loving support of those around you and taking full advantage of help when it’s offered. This could look like having a two-way dialogue with your doctor about medication, allowing your care support worker to help you apply for benefits, or sharing a coffee with a peer who has similar lived experience. 

I also realise that it’s a privilege to receive specialized treatment during a crisis, and I appreciate the healthcare staff who kept me safe when I was vulnerable. It has been healing to accept help in this way. Initially, I didn’t allow myself to accept it, because it felt like admitting I was flawed.

This ties into the idea of self-acceptance, which is the second piece that helped me overcome my latest episode. Being unkind to myself and quickly going back to work, were coping mechanisms that I learned were unhelpful. Instead, I had to set more realistic expectations.

I learned to accept that sometimes, you don’t have the same energy, focus or clarity that you had prior to an episode. I had to shift my focus to what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t. During this time, it helps to have therapeutic coping skills, like listening to music or doing gentle exercise as you make a full recovery. It also helps to work with a trauma-informed psychotherapist who can help you process your own journey, even if you’re still struggling or just beginning to understand your symptoms. Given that episodes of mania or psychosis can follow chronic stress and traumatic experiences, it’s important to work together with care providers to approach treatment with a trauma-informed perspective where possible, to truly aid recovery. 

While I might not see my bipolar diagnosis as part of my identity, it has become part of my story that I’ve come to accept. I hope to help others who are experiencing severe mental health crises, and to continue destigmatizing terms like “bipolar”. Terms like these don’t have to be a permanent label. With time and support, things can get so much better.

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